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Tehran willing to change if US leads the way, says Khamenei

Latest update : 2009-03-21

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said a change in Iranian behaviour is conditional on 'real change', not 'words' on the part of the US administration, a day after US President Barack Obama issued a videotaped appeal to the country.

AFP- Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday the Islamic republic is ready to change if US President Barack Obama leads the way by changing American attitude towards his country.

Speaking a day after Obama offered Tehran a "new beginning" to turn back the tide on decades of mutual animosity, Khamenei said Iran is yet to see any change in Washington's attitude towards Tehran.

"We have no experience with the new American government and the new American president. We will observe them and we will judge. If you change your attitude, we will change our attitude," Khamenei said in an address to thousands of Iranians in the holy city of Mashhad which was broadcast on state television.

Tehran, he said, had yet to see any change in US policy towards Iran.

"We cannot see any change. What is the change in your policy? Did you remove the sanctions? Did you stop supporting the Zionist regime? Tell us what you have changed. Change only in words is not enough. Change must be real," Khamenei said.

"The American leaders and others must know that they can't deceive our nation or scare it."

Khamenei accused Washington of having a "hostile" attitude towards Tehran since the Islamic revolution toppled the US-backed shah in 1979.

"They supported all the terrorist and opponent groups" against Iran, he said.

"We can see the American hand behind these groups. Unfortunately, this support is still continuing," he said, adding that US-backed groups were also aiding rebels fighting Iranian security forces along the Iran-Pakistan border.

Highlighting the three-decades old animosity, Khamenei said Iran would not forget American support to Saddam Hussein

during the 1980-88 war between Iran and Iraq or the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988 by a US warship that killed all 290 passengers on board.

"In all these years, they carried out hostile propaganda against our country, especially in the past eight years," the powerful cleric said, referring to the tenure of George W. Bush.

Bush had refused to talk to Iran following the launch by the Islamic republic of a controversial nuclear programme. He also lumped Iran as part of an "axis of evil" along with Saddam Hussein's Iraq and North Korea.

In an historic online video message marking the Iranian New Year Nowruz on Friday, Obama urged an end to decades of animosity and offered "honest" engagement with the Islamic republic.

In a decisive break with Bush, Obama called Nowruz celebrations a time of "new beginnings" and said Iran could take its "rightful place" in the world if it renounced terror and embraced peace.

Date created : 2009-03-21